Mindful Movements: Yes, you can be mindful even if you can’t sit still.

I am often told, “I know meditation is good for me, but I just can’t sit still!”  Well, here is some good news for all of you twitchy would-be meditators: sitting still is not the only way to meditate.  In fact, mindfulness meditation, which focuses greatly on the body, pairs extremely well with movement.

When we apply the three aspects of mindfulness identified by psychologist Shauna Shapiro—Intention, Attention, and Attitude—to physical activity, we are engaging in mindful practice. We can practice in the following way:

  • Start a physical activity by setting the Intention to bring the full focus of our awareness to the activity. Engage in the activity while keeping ourselves in the present moment.
  • Pay Attention to our breath and the bodily sensations that accompany the activity. Our mind will wander, and when it does, we can gently guide it back to the breath and the sensations.
  • Approach the activity with an Attitude of openness and curiosity. Instead of pushing ourselves to reach a particular goal or comparing our performance to others’ or our past performances, we can ask ourselves, “What happens when I move in this way?” and monitor our breath and our bodily sensations to receive the answer.

Practicing “mindful movements” provides us with the opportunity to increase our awareness of our bodies, improve our focus and practice non-judgmental awareness. Here are six ways to practice.

 

As our bodies only exist and move in the present moment, when we engage in focused, mindful movements, we necessarily enter the present moment. When our minds wander, guiding our attention back to the body and its movements brings us back to the present.

 

Mindful movements take us out of the “autopilot” mode and allow us to appreciate how much our bodies do for us without our conscious awareness. If you are standing still and rock back onto your heels, you will notice that your body automatically bends at the waist and your upper body leans forward to create a counterbalance to ensure that you do not fall backward.  It is amazing to realize that all of this occurs automatically, outside of our conscious awareness or control!  We also realize how many parts of our bodies work together to make even the simplest motions possible.  The basic action of rocking back on our heels engages nearly every part of our bodies!

Mindful movements practiced regularly provide excellent benchmarks that allow us to see where we are at on a particular day. One day we will be able to complete a particular movement without any difficulty and the next day the same movement will make us feel exhausted or make us realize that our balance is off.  Realizing where we are at on a particular day can lead to better decision-making. For example, if we notice that we feel particularly off-balance one day, we may wish to reconsider taking on particularly stressful tasks that day.

 

Mindful movements can provide a good opportunity to play at the edges of our comfort zones. For example, mindfully rocking back onto our heels and forward onto our toes allows us to watch how our breathing changes and our minds react when we are faced with the uncomfortable sensation of being off balance.  The more we become aware of how our bodies and minds react to stressful circumstances, the more skillful we can be in recognizing the symptoms of stress in the “real world” and, in turn, making good decisions regarding how to best manage this stress.

Practicing mindful movements allows us the opportunity to appreciate impermanence. If we hold a squat for a while, we may notice a burning sensation in our thighs and accompanying thoughts like, “I can’t hold this any longer.  My thighs are killing me!  I am literally dying here!”  However, after coming out of the squat, we notice that not only have we survived but also that the sensation has passed within a few moments.  Practicing mindful movements on different days makes us aware that our physical and mental states vary widely from day-to-day.  This awareness allows us to appreciate that all things pass and change with time.

Mindful movements provide a good opportunity to practice non-judgmental awareness and self-compassion. As amazing as our bodies are, they have limits.  Often when we hit a limit, we feel frustrated with ourselves.  While this is a natural reaction, it is not usually logical or helpful.  After all, tipping over in a balance pose is not a catastrophe and says absolutely nothing about our worth.  Berating ourselves for tipping over is not likely to increase our balance!  Practicing how to meet the small disappointments that often accompany physical activity with openness, curiosity and kindness will make us more adept at adopting this type of attitude and make it more likely that we will be able to do so in regard to life’s larger disappointments.

Whew!  Who knew you could be practicing so much through the performance of some small, slow movements?!

While it is possible to apply Intention, Attention, and Attitude to a Zumba class or a run, it is usually easiest to start with a slower practice, like yoga, walking or gentle stretches and movements.  Approach your practice with curiosity and see what arises!

Please watch for a future post in which I will set out instructions for a simple series of mindful movements.

Heather Cross

Heather is a lawyer, yoga instructor, and a Trained Teacher in
Mindfulness-based Symptom Management
at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic

Self-Compassion Practices for Emotional Distress: It’s not just about being kind

leavesSelf-Compassion practices and programs are gaining momentum in psychological treatments and look like they might well become the next wave of transforming our painful feelings. Mindful Self-Compassion (1), developed by Drs. Christopher Germer and Kristen Neff, is an approach that can be both an adjunct to conventional therapies as well as a stand-alone treatment model. The interesting and very useful aspects of this approach are its applicability to our multilayered experiences of suffering. First, let’s look at what they define as Self-Compassion.

Neff (2) describes it as a three-fold system that are antidotes to the experiences that cause us suffering. (A sidebar note: Suffering is typically described as Pain multiplied by our Resistance to the reality of that pain (3)). Here’s a table that summarizes Neff’s definition of self-compassion. Continue reading

10 books that are good for your health: Mindfulness, Self-Compassion & Happiness

As we enter the New Year, let’s make 2015 a year of exploring the many gifts from skilled researchers and clinicians which can support our resolution to live better. The participants of the Mindfulness-Based Symptom Management, Burnout Resilience and Pain Management programs at the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic have one wish in common: a desire to find a way to live their lives differently. In fact, this wish is not only that of the participants but also of everyone who works at the OMC. We share together the realization that despite our best intentions, we falter in caring for ourselves and others in a way that is kind, nourishing and supportive. We have strong values and tend to be committed to making ethically informed choices and yet we find ourselves wondering where all the wisdom went as we choose against those exact purposes.

If you’ve taken a mindfulness course, good start! You know over eight classes there can be shifts in your thoughts, actions and speech. You also know it’s not a quick fix and that the Ninth Class is the toughest! So to help with the rest of your practice life, here’s a collection of books that we recommend to support, boost and sustain your practice!

Mindfulness Starts Here: An eight-week guide to skillful living by Lynette Monteiro & Frank Musten. Now you didn’t think I would miss a chance to prop up our own book? If you’ve taken the 8-week program at the OMC, this is a great way to extend your practice. It also helps to come to the monthly Alumni groups! Nuff said. Let’s get on to the books you really need to get for yourself!

Leaves Falling Gently: Living fully with serious life-limiting illness through mindfulness, compassion & connectedness by Susan Bauer-Wu.  This is likely my all-time favourite. Bauer-Wu is an expert in the field of pain, oncology and mindfulness. The book is infused with compassion and an open-hearted approach to the vagaries of chronic pain. The exercises are easy and helpful, realistic and encouraging. The sections on the impact of chronic illness on memory, attention, emotions, etc. is invaluable. This book also is unstinting in its honesty about life-threatening illness and offers opportunities to change our rigid stance to the reality of living and dying.

The Practicing Happiness Workbook by Ruth Baer. This is a terrific book that brings together Dr. Baer’s skills as a clinician, methodical approach as a researcher and clear understanding as a mindfulness practitioner. I loved the set-up of the workbook because it … well, it works. Start with a nice pithy overview and then jump in at your own pace. The second section explores four very important traps that can derail our practice:  rumination, avoidance, emotion-driven behaviours and self-criticism. The section following on mindfulness skills is clearly written and I truly appreciate the inclusion of values and goals. The chapters are punctuated with stories about people with whom we can identify and the worksheets are very user-friendly. It makes me happy just to read it!

Hardwiring Happiness: The new brain science of contentment, calm, and confidence by Rick Hanson. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson is well-known for his ability to pull together neuroscience and psychological mind states in a way that is immanently understandable by most of us non-neuroscientists. There are so many catch phrases used in the mindfulness circles that originate with his teachings and in his books! Velcro for bad/Teflon for good, HEAL yourself, metaphors for resilience and vulnerability, the list is endless. What is important though is his ability to explain why we act the way do and how this is hard-wired. The section “Paper Tiger Paranoia” is my favourite and has helped me out of many a flight reaction! Mostly, in this book, we get to practice the ways in which to make changes to those survival instincts and hard-wire responses to experiences that sustain and help us. If you find this book helpful (or if you’re curious), also try his new program called Foundations of Well-Being which is a year-long on-line program and worth taking.

Living Well with Pain & Illness: The mindful way to free yourself from suffering by Vidyamala Burch. This book is written by and is based on the Breathworks program developed by someone who truly understands the challenge of physical pain. Vidyamala Burch’s history is unlike anyone I’ve read about and her strength is apparent throughout the book. Chapter 2 explains what is pain and is one of the clearest and most useful descriptions available. The use of research-based information is well-placed and does not overwhelm the information in each chapter. I totally fell in love with the third chapter. It’s my favourite allegory of how we create our suffering out of pain. And Burch patiently tells the story in gentle sequences making it come alive. The exercises and case stories are accessible and very user-friendly. I prefer the book to the e-book simply because the text set up is more compelling.

Empathy: Why it matters and how to get it by Roman Krznaric. This is an important book to keep the practice of mindfulness from becoming a self-centered practice. While we start our practice because we suffer the effects of personal difficulties, it is important to see that we are created, and can be undone, in a social context of family, community and global events. Mindfulness brings our awareness to our suffering and we practice so that we don’t repeat the same cycles of interactions with ourselves and others. However the deeper intention of mindfulness is to create a compassionate world and that change can’t happen without seeing that others too want to be free of the same suffering we endure. Empathy is the capacity to walk in their shoes, to make choices that are informed by understanding that what others need is not what we think they need. The exercises and examples in the book are wonderful and challenge us to find a different way to know the world. Grow your connection with those you love and beyond!

Mindful Compassion by Paul Gilbert & Choden. Paul Gilbert is well-known and respected for his work on compassion and cultivating the compassionate mind. In this book, he teams with Choden, a Buddhist monk who helped develop the graduate program in mindfulness and compassion at Aberdeen University. I particularly like the way they organize the book so that the arising of compassion is a natural outcome of how we organize the world as we know it. Gilbert’s perspective of compassion as a social mentality which helps us negotiate through relationships and interactions is an important understanding. In other words, being compassionate is far from being soft and squidgy or a door mat. The exercises are nicely explained and inviting. The definitions of compassion clear up misconceptions. The development of a compassionate self (Chapter 10) is probably the most important part of the book. However, it rests on all that precedes it; I especially liked that the exercises in this chapter are also empathy cultivating ones. An important addition to your mindfulness practice!

The Mindful Way Workbook: An 8-week program to free yourself from depression and emotional distress by John Teasdale, Mark Williams & Zindel Segal. This book is a user-format version of the previously published A Mindful Way through Depression. The first section lays out the foundations and the next section takes us through the eight weeks. I liked how the issue of traps and obstacles is re-framed as “another way of knowing” which opens up the thought patterns and is subtly a practice in cognitive flexibility. It is focused on addressing depression through mindfulness however, the various exercises also might be useful for anxiety and general stress. I had trouble with the layout of the book (too many boxes for a book that wants us to get out of our mental boxes) and the excessive number of balloon quotes are distracting (not cool for a mindfulness book). I have used it as a guidebook with individual patients and found it organizes the sessions well. Be patient when you use this but do try it!

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions by Christopher Germer AND Self-Compassion: The proven power of being kind to yourself by Kristin Neff. These two books come as a perfectly balanced pair. Germer approaches self-compassion with a clinical understanding of the emotional impact of our often harsh inner critic. Neff comes from the perspective of a research-based understanding of what self-compassion means and how it works. With both the experiential practice and the knowledge base to ground it, I find the practice of self-compassion inviting and easy to integrate into my life. As both Neff and Germer remind us in their workshops: don’t chose a practice that sets off an argument in your mind about it. Folded into both books is also the much-needed practice of forgiving ourselves for not being that superhuman being we think we need to be.

The Mindful Way to Study: Dancing with your books by Jake Gibbs & Roddy Gibbs. For all you students out there and those of us who are perennial students, this is a terrific guide to setting down and getting the work done. And more. I like the way this book addresses the various obstacles we encounter (traps) by setting the perspective of “gumption”. Just do what needs to be done! Well, it’s not that easy and Gibbs & Gibbs walk us through a number of gumption traps. The first one was ego (but I figure I already know how that works so I skipped it… no, not really). Check out the section on procrastination though; it’s not just about boredom or priorities! Gibbs & Gibbs’ focus on Right Effort (the last section) is helpful and has a nice balance of meditative practice with insight to our actions.

 

Building Safeness: How to get intimate with our inner critic

chive heart

We all want to feel safe. It’s important. When we feel safe, we feel confident and more willingly open ourselves to new experiences. In fact, feeling safe leads to the willingness to take risks – to risk being known, being seen, loving and feeling loved. As we encounter the world in all its various ways of showing us what being safe means, we learn to open and close our hearts (and minds) when we feel respected or rejected. Paul Gilbert¹, the developer of Compassion Focused Therapy, uses the term “safeness” to describe the experience of being safe. It’s different from “safety” or “safety-seeking” which tend to be what we do when we are engaged in the threat evaluation/response processes.

There are many things in our environment that we have learned are safe and many we have learned are unsafe. Hot stoves, fast-moving traffic, dark alleys and the like are easy to discern in terms of their safety. Emotion-cued environments are harder to figure out. Our childhood experiences are a fruitful ground where we learn many of our lessons about safeness and safety. Angry voices, certain words, patterns of relationships and other features of interpersonal relationships can become cues for safeness. We typically know the degree of safeness from the language and tone of the person speaking to or interacting with us. Safeness with respect to our inner dialogue is no different from our external experience.

Most people, when asked about their inner voice, smile sheepishly and confess it’s not a pleasant one. But almost immediately, they will begin to defend their not-so-silent partner. “It’s how I motivate myself.” “I’d never know how to avoid mistakes I make if I didn’t remind myself that I can screw up.” While all this is true, the sad fact is, our inner critical voice is often what keeps us from engaging with life. More than that, the inner critic leaves us feeling threatened rather than safe.

Like all relationships, our relationship with our inner critic is complicated. We suspect it’s trying to help but it sure doesn’t feel like it at times. We’d like to turn it off but we’re afraid without it we’d become a lazy lump on the couch. We want it gone forever but it’s a hard-wired part of who we are. We’d like to make peace with it but we’re not ready for that inner group hug. We think it just wants us to be careful and wise but it sounds like it’s telling us can’t do anything right, ever! And to add insult to injury, no one knows us better than that inner critic. It knows all the buttons to push to get us to start or stop. It knows our vulnerabilities and strengths, often over-emphasizing the former and diminishing the latter. It is like being inseparable from an unruly, impolite friend who has really good intentions to keep us safe but can’t create safeness. It is intimate with every aspect of who we are and that also makes it primed for self-compassion²‚³.

However, befriending a person like that is a challenge at the best of times; befriending ourselves in the worst of our times can be daunting. That’s why we need to take slow, quiet steps towards engaging with the inner critic.

Step 1. Mindfulness. It’s hard to be in the presence of harshness, so mindfulness practice helps us stay grounded and aware when the inner critic begins its monologue of dire warnings. Mindfulness of our emotions helps us stay connected with the impact of the words. It also tells us when we’ve had enough and need to get off that nasty train of thoughts.

Step 2. Acknowledge we heard its message. This sounds strange because it may feel like we’re agreeing with it. Notice we are saying, “I hear you,” and not “You’re right.” Everyone has a perspective and the point of view of the inner critic is just one perspective on our life. As we become more comfortable with acknowledging its voice, we can try to acknowledge its attempt to help. Eventually with practice, we may get to say “Thanks for alerting me. I’ve got this!” Remember we can’t fight the inner critic with brute strength; we have to soften around it.

Step 3. Strong back, soft front: respect the partnership. The inner critic is really our attempt at feeling solid in our life; that’s the strong back. We have opinions, ideas, feelings and a reality that is meaningful. We are also of a softer nature that is attentive and giving, accommodating and caring. We feel our vulnerability and openness in relationships. The balance between the strong back and soft front helps us be flexible and available emotionally.

Meditation practices you can try:

1. Lovingkindness and compassion meditations help us develop less fear of being wounded. The inner critic tries to toughen us up against external criticisms and that subtly makes these criticisms seem more threatening than they are and the wounds deeper than they might be.

2. Giving and receiving compassion meditations can help to create space and calm between ourselves and our inner critic. Although the meditations are intended to give compassion to another person in our life who needs it, we could see the inner critic as an aspect of ourselves that needs compassion too.

3. Compassion Breaks and “Soften-Soothe-Allow” meditations help to develop presence in the face of the monologue we heard internally.

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With notes from Glynn, Brittany, Mindful Self-Compassion 8-week program, Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic

¹Gilbert, Paul (2009). The Compassionate Mind: A new approach to life’s challenges. New Harbinger Publications: CA

²Germer, Christopher (2009). The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion:Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press: NY

³Neff, Kristin (2011). Self-Compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. William Morrow: NY

 

A Complaint-Free World: The deepest practice of compassion

Stop complaining? No way. It’s how we vent, share our pain, give voice to injustices! But is it?

Recently, a dear colleague and friend got me into this practice of being complaint-free. It’s a program started by Will Bowen who was encouraging his congregation to develop a new habit. It takes 21-days to form a new habit. (Well, for the most diligent among us, anyway!) So, for 21-days can you commit to not complaining? Bowen describes complaining this way:

To “Complain” is defined as “to express pain, grief, or discontent.” Surely, it makes sense to express pain, grief or discontent occasionally but most people do so constantly. In so doing, they are talking and thinking about what they do not want in their life and, thereby, attracting more pain, grief and discontent. Instead, think and talk about what you are grateful for. Talk about what you DO want and not what you DON’T want.

This is a great description of our tendency to fall into the trap of unintentionally reinforcing a bad habit. Our actual intention is rooted in being self-compassionate. When we feel pain, it makes sense to seek out support, get advice, ask for a reality check. It is part of what we can do to care for our distress in a healthy way. Rather than isolating ourselves, we seek out others who can validate a common experience of pain. It also helps us to bring a tender awareness to our pain, a way of being mindful of it. When we turn towards our pain rather than away from it, we reduce our reactivity and avoidance of its experience. We can take experiential responsibility for it. In other words, it’s not something that is being done to us but rather something we feel within us that is not only valid but also within our capacity to manage. As we learn to approach our pain, we cultivate a kindness in our attention of it, a willingness to attend to it in a wise and healthy way.

In reality, what actually happens? Our sharing and seeking out of relief can become a way of resisting that pain. We seek out justification for its injustice, its unfairness, its insolence in preventing us from getting what we want. We complain. This is a form of resisting what is happening, of looking away by creating stories about the pain. And by doing so we transform our pain into suffering.  A popular expression of this process is to see pain and suffering as this equation:

Suffering = pain X resistance

Suffering is the way in which we meet our pain. Out tendency is to push it away, cling to what was (pleasant), or to be misled in our minds about what is really happening.

Sometimes it’s hard to dive into a mindfulness or self-compassion practice because the chatter in our head is so loud and relentless. Taking this step of slowing down the rate of complaints makes it a bit more manageable. It restores the energy we spend dispensing judgment on ourselves and of others.

Give it a try!

 

We are 10 Years Old!

Ten years ago, we (Frank Musten & Lynette Monteiro) were inspired by the development of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (see Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression: A new approach to preventing relapse by Zindel Segal, J. Mark Williams & John Teasdale; Guilford Press) and, after a brief correspondence with Dr. Segal, launched the Ottawa Mindfulness Clinic. It was a scary venture despite our experience as therapists and use of meditation in individual sessions as an adjunct to progressive muscular relaxation. We also were refining our experiences in the Buddhist community, learning more and more about the foundations of mindfulness, in particular the role of ethics in guiding lifestyle changes. The program took shape as a process of understanding the nature of “symptoms” which reflected our clinical training and interest in finding a way view psychological difficulties such as depression and anxiety as an interaction between internal and external sensation experiences.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe concepts of mindfulness were still new and not always welcomed by the medical and psychological communities then. So much has changed since! The first class started in May 2003 and was held in a conference room at the Riverside Hospital. It was so crowded – not because of a large enrollment but because of a three-piece horseshoe conference table that took up most of the space. When we did the Body Scan, some participants had to lie down with their legs out the door or under the table itself; one even lay down on top of the table. Still, despite the random sounds of walls and doors being drilled during the Awareness of Breath meditations, transformations occurred.

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The next year the OMC moved to a little space that resembled a very short bowling alley. Here, courses in Mindfulness-Based Symptom Management (MBSM) unfolded over many years. Participants joined us to learn how to breathe through physical and emotional pain, with joy and woe, in sickness and health. It was a joining ceremony in each class, meeting ourselves for the first time and embracing this stranger we had become. It didn’t matter whether we spoke of teacher or participant; change happened.

In 2008, we began the Teacher Training Program at the request of many colleagues. The focus on an Ethics-Based Mindfulness Program was appealing for many professionals who understood intuitively that healthy choices could only come out of a set of principles that directed those choices. The Five Skillful Habits, as the core of the OMC program, was innovative and participants as well as teacher trainees welcomed the idea that skillful choices cannot be left to a process of “just paying attention.”

The OMC moved into new space five years ago and now is composed of several wonderful teachers who facilitate courses in Core Mindfulness, Burnout Resilience, Self-Compassion for Health Care Professionals, Pain & Chronic Illness Management and who coach the Teacher Training Retreat. The OMC is also a Practicuum training facility for PhD candidates in Clinical Psychology at the School of Psychology, University of Ottawa.

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We have been blessed with the generous involvement of the Ottawa community in creating this safe and quiet space where so much healing can happen.

Book-posterOur future is bright and exciting. Our book, Mindfulness Starts Here: An eight-week guide to skillful living, will be published soon and we look forward to continuing to offer our support and care to an ever-growing community of mindfulness practitioners.

Thank you for all you have done to make this a reality!

Taking the path from forgiveness to gratitude

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada.  It is a time to reflect on the wonderful people we have in our lives and the good things that have blessed this life.  In the language of practice, we “incline our hearts” towards the practice of gratitude.  This is a wonderful practice on the path of well-being.  And yet, there are times gratitude is difficult in the face of the suffering we feel.  We know we have hurt others and others have hurt us.  Resentments, anger, and bitterness lurk in the shadows keeping us from truly appreciating the richness of our life.

A traditional practice we use to find our way to calm and ease is the metta or lovingkindness meditation.  We begin with ourselves, offering a wish to shift our perceptions of who we think we are; may I (be deserving to) be free of suffering.  We incline our heart in the direction of this worthiness.  Then, as we widen our circle of inclusion,  we “wait for others to show up” so that we can lean that heart further and further into a deep desire that all beings be free from harm, be safe, be healthy, be well.  As each person appears, we savour the deliciousness of our love and care for them.

Tucked into this practice, are those who have hurt or harmed us, those whose presence makes us incline the heart away from metta.  We hold assumptions about them, their motivations, their willingness to hurt us.  These are the blind spots in our open-heartedness.  We also hold assumptions about ourselves when we are painfully aware of the ways in which we have hurt and harmed others.  These are more blind spots in the vision field of the tentatively opening heart; eventually the whole landscape can be obscured from our vision and we forget what there is to be grateful for.

Adding to our pain, we tend to see blind spots as fixed just as we see the “badness” of ourselves and others as fixed.  We begin to own that negative aspect or use it to filter our perceptions of the other person.  This adds a dimension of futility to our wish that the anger or resentment can change.  How can something intrinsic change?

So, it’s important to begin our cultivation of gratitude with a practice of forgiveness, with an openness to the truth that we and all beings act “wittingly and unwittingly” due to a complex set of biological, cultural, and acquired causes and conditions.  This possibility that we or the other person may have acted with OR without awareness shifts our perception of a fixed aspect of who we are or who the other person is.  By taking a different stance to our blind spots, the unseen aspects of a relationship are revealed.  Just like the little mirror on the corner of side mirrors on newer cars, we have a chance to see things that were typically blocked from our view.

It’s important to note as well that forgiveness of another does not mean we approve of their actions or that we should resume our relationship with them.  It does mean we step out of needing them to play a role in our well-being.  We repossess our power over our intentions and actions.  We become discerning about our vulnerabilities and understand that wittingly or not, we are able to hurt others just as we are able to be hurt.

As we release from the pain of self- and other-inflicted hurts, we can begin to practice the art of savouring our life.  We begin with an awareness of what is present for us in each moment.  We take a stance of appreciation for these wonderful gifts.  And, most important, we linger in that state of appreciation, bringing our hand to our heart, saving that sensation to the hard drive of awareness.

Does it feel manipulative to focus on the positive things?  Didn’t we learn in mindfulness courses that life is about connecting with our suffering?  True, however our minds have a natural inclination to and tendency for getting stuck in the negative, a negativity bias whose intention is to protect and ensure our survival.  Given its tendency to incline that way, we may as well take charge and incline it in a more beneficial direction that counterbalances the negativity bias.
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Note bene: This post (and terms in quotes) were inspired by the Mindful Self-Compassion training provided by Drs. Christopher Germer and Kristen Neff.  You can find a forgiveness meditation here at Mindful Self-Compassion along with many others on self-compassion.  More self-compassion material is available here at Self-Compassion.